Tag Archives: Approved Private School

Music and Memories

by Sabrina Stafford

When I received the news that I would be interning at Easterseals back in December of 2015, I was ecstatic. Being the oldest sibling of two children with special needs, I am used to most special education programs being familiar with my family; but this was different. Easterseals had been a part of not only my brother and sister’s lives but also mine. I attended the Sibshop program that was available in the evenings to siblings of children who attended Easterseals. This program was very important to me as a little girl (and I’m not just saying that because they had free pizza).

Sibshop taught me that although being a sibling is difficult, it is also incredibly rewarding. My siblings are a blessing. Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to easily learn values such as patience, empathy and hope. When I walked into the doors of the Delaware County Division of Easterseals after accepting the position as the Music Therapist, I felt like I was walking into Easterseals as a little girl back in the early 2000’s.

My brother, Sammy, graduated from Easterseals in 2000. He is currently 22 years old and a graduate from Elwyn’s Davidson School. Sammy once was a student in the APS classroom. Sammy received in-home services such as physical, occupational, and speech therapy. In fact, Ms. Paula, Sammy’s previous PT still works at Easterseals today. What a surprise it was for me to recognize a familiar face on my first week as an intern! Sammy is healthy and strong and enjoys his days socializing at home with family and his nurses.

My sister, Sophia, graduated from Easterseals in 2006. She is now 17 years old and attends a life-skills class at Penncrest High School. Sophia was one of the first children to attend the Friendship academy at the Delaware County Division. Sophia continues to enjoy school, especially socializing with peers her age. She attends all of her high school dances and is also a member of her student council and honors society. Sophia also works at The Media Library as part of her life-skills curriculum.

I am a proud sibling of both Sammy and Sophia. Of course my special family has come with challenges, but those challenges are heavily outweighed by the benefits. Easterseals has been a small-knit community for me and my family, and continues to be a supportive environment for me as a newly professional Music Therapist.

Although Sammy and Sophia have both graduated from Easterseals, they bring the spirit and warmth of the Easterseals community with them. They will continue to hold Easterseals in their hearts, just as I continue to do every day. It has been such a rewarding experience for me working at Easterseals; I feel like I was born to have this job. I am so very thankful for the life experiences that prepared me for my endeavors at Easterseals. Because of this, I wake up every day with a smile knowing that without my siblings, and without Easterseals, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

Cardboard Fairy

by Susan Lowenstein

What if I were to tell you that there is a cardboard fairy that visits Easterseals in Bucks County every few weeks? She delivers hand-made adaptive equipment created out of cardboard that our children can use during their day at school to be more successful. You would think I have lost my mind. But it’s true! Well, sort of true. The material that this “fairy” uses is a sturdier and thicker version of cardboard called tri-wall. It can be purchased from stores like Staples or Lowe’s, but has to be specially ordered. So…have I piqued your curiosity? Want to learn more about our “cardboard fairy”?

Her name is Dorothy Hess. She was a Pharmaceutical marketing executive for many years, but now that she is retired, she is using her creativity and resourcefulness as well as her artistic abilities to help the children at Easterseals achieve their full potential! How does she do this, you ask?

Dorothy completed a 3 day volunteer training through a company called Adaptive Design Association. It was this training, along with her own problem solving and analytic skills, that have prepared her to come to Easterseals to design and create various products for our children. Some examples include:

  • A completely customized chair for young boy named Javohn who attends our APS program. We were having difficulty fitting him in any of our other student chairs. Javohn has shorter legs and arms, but a longer torso compared to his typically developing peers. We had trialed him in many of our chairs, even those that were adjustable, but we were unable to give him the support that he needed to sit upright in class. But never fear, the “cardboard fairy” is here! Not only was Dorothy able to create a chair that fit this young student perfectly, she painted the entire chair and even hand drew an Elmo on the side of it, just to give it that fantastic preschool look!

Javohn and Dorothy

 

  • Full length adjustable back supports, mounted directly to the back of our standing frames that we use with children who are unable to stand without support. These back supports have helped make it easier for our staff to position children in our standers, while providing the additional back support that some of our kids need to stand in optimal alignment.
  • A customized tray for an adaptive chair which for some time we were unable to use secondary to a broken tray (the product had been discontinued). This is just the first prototype of hopefully many more trays to come, as we have several more chairs that need new trays in order to be used for our children’s educational activities.

The cardboard fairy already has several other projects in the works for us. I can’t wait to see what she brings next time she visits!

Seasonal Sensory Success

by Alyssa Brief, MS, OTR/L

Making PlayDoh from scratch with common household items is a tried and trusted OT activity that can provide opportunities to develop hand skills while providing sensory input. With the holiday season now upon us, my OT group at the Philadelphia division’s Approved Private School recently enjoyed a seasonal twist to the traditional recipe- Gingerbread PlayDoh! This is an excellent (and wonderfully scented) therapeutic activity that is safe to eat since it is made exclusively with baking items. Making homemade Gingerbread PlayDoh can literally add some spice into families’ lives during vacation time off from school or on a Snow Day. Fun and safe for all ages and abilities, Gingerbread PlayDoh offers a fun play experience for children who are sensory seekers. This holiday season, I’m feeling incredibly thankful and lucky that facilitating creative sensory play opportunities is part of my job as an Occupational Therapist at Easter Seals.

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Gingerbread PlayDoh Recipe:
1 Cup Flour
1/2 Cup Salt
1/2 Tbsp Ground Ginger
1/2 Tbsp Ground Cinnamon
1 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
1/2 Cup Water
Mix ingredients together and knead until the ingredients reach consistency of PlayDoh. For longer lasting use, keep refrigerated in a sealed container. Enjoy!

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Meet Georgia

by Melanie O’Brien

georgia 1_web

When sweet 4-year-old Georgia was born, everything seemed pretty typical. However, when she was about 10-months old, her mom noticed her eyes seemed to be twitching and she wasn’t meeting her milestones. Georgia has a partial trisomy 14 disorder. She began receiving home-based services, including occupational, physical and speech therapies and special education. When Georgia turned 3, she started attending Easter Seals Early Intervention Center for half-days. She was doing well and it was quickly determined that she would really benefit from full-days in the Approved Private School program in the Yaffe Center. Since then, she has gone from a quiet and shy to very social! Georgia loves going to school and has become very interested in the world around her. She is initiating play, trying to dress herself and going up and down steps. When she isn’t at school, Georgia is playing with her sisters and taking advantage of all the museums and cultural opportunities that Philly has to offer. Georgia loves color and to laugh and she is painting the world with her beautiful smile!

Meet Georgia and the other Honorary Ambassadors at Walk With Me on June 4th at the Philadelphia Zoo. You can learn more and register at www.walkwithme.org/philadelphia.

Beesly Came to School!

 

by Jennifer Greener

Children at the Yaffe Center were delighted to meet, pet and brush Beesly, a service dog in training from Paws & Affection. Beesly, a handsome white Labradoodle with a calm and friendly disposition, demonstrated some of his many skills to the children and staff. He can turn on lights, pick up dropped objects, open a door, and give a person a steady body for support when the person gets up from a chair. Each child had the opportunity to touch Beesly’s soft fur and stroke him with a grooming brush. Beesly loved the attention and the opportunity to make the children happy.

Beesly was accompanied by the directors and trainers at Paws & Affection, Laura O’Kane & Susie Daily as well as board member and dog trainer, Michaela Greif. Beesly will be ready for a full time service assignment this summer in either a facility environment or with an individual with physical disabilities. In the meantime, coming to school helps Beesly learn how to interact in a new situation with a wide variety of people. We are excited that Beesly will be returning to the Yaffe Center on a regular basis.

Beesly’s second visit yielded even more excitement than the first. All of the children were more alert, excited, engaged and relaxed with their new friend. During the recent visit, Beesly started working on some functional activities with our children. He helped a few children transition in and out of chairs, stand up from seated positions and stabilize themselves in order to stand and do an activity unaided by staff. This support enabled the children to be more independent despite their physical limitations! Beesly would also “get” requested objects and take them to the designated child or staff assisting children as part of their circle time and group activities. Some of the children also worked on fine motor skills such as opening their hands and using pincher grasp to feed Beesly his well-deserved treats! Our children, of course, had plenty opportunity to interact with Beesly; and there was much affection going on by our children, staff and Beesly alike!

Beesly has 3 more bi-weekly scheduled visits at Yaffe Center, after which time the Paws & Affection and Easter Seals teams will discuss additional opportunities for Beesly to work with our program.

 

Paws & Affection aims to place service dogs with children and teens aged 9-17 who have physical disabilities. For more information about Paws & Affection please visit their website: http://pawsandaffection.org/ or call 610-949-0490.

Teachers in the Making!

by Jennifer Greener

Three students from St. Joseph’s University who are studying to be special education teachers volunteered to sponsor a fall activity with the students in Easter Seals Philadelphia Approved Private School. Using their knowledge of how some children’s limitations with fine motor skills, communication and behavior may impact the ability to access and participate in craft activities, they came well-prepared. The volunteers selected visually appealing craft ideas with models of the finished products. The crafts included easy-to-assemble pieces that were readily available for the students. With the support of Easter Seals staff, the children received one-to-one assistance with the craft activities. They utilized their individualized means of making choices, indicating which pieces they wanted to use to personalize their creations. Students received various levels of assistance, some needed hand-over-hand support, while allowing them the opportunity to express their own individuality. When the projects were finished the volunteers had time to play and dance with some of the students before they left for the day. The students enjoyed their time with the volunteers, and this activity provided valuable experience for the budding teachers.

A Life Gone Too Soon

by Jennifer Greener

Samar

Samar Day-Williams (Sunrise 10/03/2009-Sunset 10/30/2015), a student in the Starfish classroom at the Yaffe Center passed away this week.

Patricia Fitzmyer, his loving teacher had the following to say.

Samar started preschool in September 2013 at our Delaware CO. campus. Samar lit up his classroom. He transferred to Philadelphia in September 2014 and became a member of the Starfish classroom. He had a sunny disposition and a big smile. He loved the life of the classroom and enjoyed being handled by the classroom staff. He loved circle and music time and used a switch to participate in activities. He liked to touch and feel different materials, especially if they were shiny and reflective. He loved books and being read to and would follow the pictures, especially when they were highlighted by a flashlight. He smiled and vocalized when he was in the platform swing and really enjoyed movement. He liked the vibration of the vibrio music massage chair.

He will be missed by his classmates and all of his friends at Easter Seals.

Samar’s family did not have a life insurance policy and are unable to meet the financial costs associated with his burial. In order to help his family meet his final expenses, a go-fund-me page has been created. Any donations that are made will be appreciated to help loved ones pay their respects and ensure that he is properly laid to rest. Please visit http://Gofundme.com/vq7rn3j8.